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What Are the Parts of Speech?

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Part of speech is the common name for a word class--a category into which words are placed according to the work they do in a sentence. Here you'll be introduced to the eight traditional parts of speech.


Learning the names of the parts of speech probably won't make you witty, wealthy, or wise. In fact, learning just the names of the parts of speech won't even make you a better writer. But you will gain a basic understanding of the English language, which should help you follow the other lessons here at About.com Grammar and Composition. And those lessons will help you to improve your writing.

As you study the table at the bottom of the page, keep in mind that only interjections ("Yes!") have a habit of standing alone (or alongside complete sentences). The other parts of speech--nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions--come in many varieties and may appear just about anywhere in a sentence. To know for sure what part of speech a word is, we have to look not only at the word itself but also at its meaning, position, and use in a sentence.

For example, in the first sentence below, work functions as a noun; in the second sentence, a verb; and in the third sentence, an adjective:

  • Bosco showed up for work two hours late.
    [The noun work is the thing Bosco shows up for.]
  • He will have to work until midnight.
    [The verb work is the action he must perform.]
  • His work permit expires next month.
    [The attributive noun work modifies the noun permit.]

Don't let this variety of meanings and uses confuse or discourage you. Keep in mind that learning the names of the basic parts of speech is just one way to understand how sentences are put together.

Now review the parts of speech listed below, and for each one see if you can provide examples of your own. (Click on the term for more detailed explanations and additional examples.) You'll grow more familiar with the parts of speech as you practice using them in other lessons on this site, such as Grammar Basics: Sentence Parts and Sentence Structures.

NOTE: Though some traditional grammars have treated articles (the, a[n]) as a distinct part of speech, contemporary grammars more often include articles in the category of determiners.

Parts of Speech

PART OF SPEECH BASIC FUNCTION EXAMPLES
noun names a person, place, or thing pirate, Caribbean, ship
pronoun takes the place of a noun I, you, he, she, it, ours, them, who
verb identifies action or state of being sing, dance, believe, be
adjective modifies a noun hot, lazy, funny
adverb modifies a verb, adjective, or other adverb softly, lazily, often
preposition shows a relationship between a noun (or pronoun) and other words in a sentence up, over, against, by, for
conjunction joins words, phrases, and clauses and, but, or, yet
interjection expresses emotion ah, whoops, ouch
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